ATHLETICS CHAMPIONSHIPS. MILO Assistant Vice President Carlo Sampan (left) speaks during the media launch of the Philippine Athletics Championships at the Diamond Hotel in Manila on Wednesday (Feb. 22, 2023). Also in the photo are (from left) Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA) executive assistant Reli de Leon; PATAFA assistant for business development Anton Capistrano; Cel Logistics Inc. executive vice president and CEO Fernando Juan Perez; and PATAFA training director Nonoy Unso. (PNA photo by Jess M. Escaros Jr.)

MANILA – More than 1,000 athletes from all over the country and across Asia will compete in the National Open Athletics Championships scheduled from March 21 to 26 at the Ilagan Sports Complex in Isabela.

The tournament will serve as the final qualifying stage for athletes vying for slots in the national team going to the Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) in Cambodia in May.

"The National Open is highly anticipated because the current members of the national team, including Fil-heritage athletes, will be up against the best local talents and those from Asia. Athletes from the national training pool, collegiate leagues and standouts from the Palarong Pambansa and Batang Pinoy are also joining," said Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA) secretary general Edward Kho during the formal launching of the event at the Diamond Hotel in Manila on Wednesday.

Also present were Cel Logistics, Inc. assistant vice president Anton Capistrano and executive vice president Fernando Juan Perez; Philippine Racing Commission and PATAFA consultant Reli de Leon; Nestle Philippines, Inc. assistant vice president for Milo Sports Carlo Sampan; and PATAFA national training director Renato Unso.

Kho said athletes from Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, Chinese Taipei, Sri Lanka and Iraq have already confirmed their participation in the tournament which offers 100 points in the World Athletics rankings.

Except for world No. 3 pole vaulter EJ Obiena, all medalists at the 2022 Vietnam SEA Games are joining the National Open.

They are Filipino-Americans Eric Cray (gold, 400m hurdles), William Morrison III (gold, shot put; bronze, discus throw), Kayla Richardson (gold, 100m; bronze, 200m), Kyla Richardson (silver, 200m), Robyn Brown (bronze, 400m hurdles), and homegrown Clinton Kingsley Bautista (gold, 110m hurdles), Hocket delos Santos (silver, pole vault), Janry Ubas (silver, long jump; bronze, decathlon), Aries Toledo (silver, decathlon), Mark Harry Diones (silver, triple jump), Christine Hallasgo (silver, marathon), Sarah Dequinan (silver, heptathlon), Jelly Dianne Paragile (bronze, 100m hurdles), Joida Gagnao (bronze, 3000m steeplechase), Evalyn Palabrica (bronze, javelin throw), Alfrence Braza (bronze, 1500m), Melvin Calano (bronze, javelin throw), Sonny Wagdos (5000m); and Edgardo Aljean, Bernalyn Bejoy, Joyme Sequita and Jessel Lumapas (bronze, 4x400m mixed relay).

Fil-Ams Alyana Nicolas (pole vault) and Umajesty Williams (200m and 400m) are also competing in the tournament to be held in Ilagan City for the fourth time. Isabela's provincial capital also played host from 2017 to 2019.

Meanwhile, national team head coach Jojo Posadas said PATAFA will hold an initial performance trial from Feb. 28 to March 2 at the PhilSports Stadium in Pasig City. (PNA)